5 Tips for Keeping Your Business Finances Secure in the Age of the Internet

The Internet has its tenterhooks into everything. Large businesses have IT Departments that use sophisticated techniques to keep their data safe, but if you run a small business, you probably have limited technical resources. Still, there is a lot you can do to secure your financial data, and it’s a really good idea to do just that. Hackers can steal your data or drop malware into your website. In some cases, you may have to pay ransom to get your website working again. Here are five tips to help keep your business data secure:

Secure your network:

You need to be able to discourage hackers while maintaining the functionality you need to do your business. Your WiFi must be encrypted and password protected. Hackers often do mischief by packaging malware within comments or email they send to your website.  You need a physical or site-level firewall to control access, and a continually executing malware identification and removal program to keep out Trojan horses, spam links and so forth. If you use a commercial webhost like GoDaddy, review your security status and upgrade it where necessary.

Control your online purchases:

If you purchase from an insecure site, there is a chance the data will be intercepted or otherwise misused. You might not have a fancy purchasing department, but you can set some rules regarding who you purchase from. Only purchase from trusted sites – ones you’ve dealt with in the past, or, if a new site, one that uses a reputable payment processor, like Google Checkout or PayPal. Always ensure you see the padlock icon on your browser to verify you are looking at a safe page.

Monitor your credit report:

Your business’ credit report will tip you off right away to fishy transactions. You should make arrangements to get fresh copies of your credit reports at least once a month. It’s worth the money. When you receive them, check them over for hinky items that may indicate identity theft. If you find these, contact your bank, the credit card issuer (if applicable) and the credit bureau right ways. You might also need to change account numbers and passwords.

Be careful with your email:

Phishing is big business and the crooks are getting better at it all the time. Your email provider is your first line of defense, alerting you to suspicious email and quarantining it in a spam inbox. Beware emails that ask you to click a link to fix some problem or claim a reward – it’s probably a ruse to load malware onto your computer or direct you to a malicious website. Never include private information, such as account numbers or tax ids, in your emails. If you get an email from a supposedly trusted source asking you to take some action, do not respond to the email. Instead, contact the company by phone or separate email to verify the situation.

Set banking alerts:

You should closely monitor your business checking account for suspicious activity. If you use a program like QuickBooks, download and review your transactions daily. Use a bank that offers account alerts, such as when a withdrawal or payment exceeds a certain amount, of if your balance falls below a given figure.

If you take suitable precautions, you can take advantage of all the efficiencies the Internet provides without undertaking undue risk. When you deal with IOU Financial, know that we follow the highest standards of data protection so that you can borrow money in confidence.

New Survey Sheds Light on Slow Adoption of EMV Cards

New Survey Sheds Light on Slow Adoption of EMV Cards

A new survey from TD Bank finds that several factors are holding back small business owners from quickly adopting cards with embedded chips, known as EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) cards. EMV cards are more secure than the older magnetic strip variety, which means their slow adoption leaves more consumers vulnerable to credit fraud from counterfeit, lost or stolen cards. Slow adoption can also leave small business owners vulnerable to footing the bill when instances of credit fraud do happen.

On October 1, 2015, the liability for damages arising from credit card fraud shifted from the card issuers to merchants for all swipe transactions performed on EMV cards (the new cards still work with the older terminals). Surprisingly, the survey finds that about 19 percent of merchants were either unaware of or indifferent to the new compliance rules for EMV payment terminals, and only a minority of small businesses have installed them, with many reporting concerns about or obstacles with adopting the new technology. The latest information is that new POS terminals are operational at only about 25 percent of locations.

Conversion cost is a factor mentioned by 58 percent of small business owners (SBOs) in the survey as to why they have been slow to upgrade. Part of the problem is misperceptions about the cost of switching to the new payment terminals. Although several pre-deadline reports put the price at $1,000 per installation, actual costs reported by survey respondents indicated the average cost to be about $450 per installation. Many merchants work on tight margins, and for those who perform relatively few credit/debit card transactions, the perceived high costs of transitioning to the new EMV technology can seem a significant roadblock.

Although 73 percent of SBOs expressed little or no concern about their exposure to the damages of credit card fraud, it is hard to say that indifference to security is holding back the conversion process.  Only 13 percent of non-adopters admitted a lack of credit fraud concern, and 70 percent of adopters listed security as the foremost benefit. The survey reports that 58 percent of adopters say that the new cards are better at protecting consumers’ information, and 54 percent mentioned that installing EMV card readers shields their businesses from fraud liability.

The last major obstacle reported by the survey (mentioned by 37 percent of SBOs) involves the amount of time it takes to set up and learn the new payment system  and the effort involved in educating customers about the new process (36 percent). The new terminals read EMV cards through partial insertion rather than swiping, and the transaction takes a few seconds longer with the new equipment.

While the survey indicates that SBOs face real and perceived obstacles to updating their point of sale systems, it’s important to consider that a single instance of credit fraud could easily exceed the one-time costs of upgrading systems to comply with new rules.  If your business is trying to figure out how to finance the installation and activation costs of new EMV terminals at your retail locations, it may be worthwhile to consider taking out a commercial business loan. Alternative lenders like IOU Financial look at factors beyond credit score, like daily cash flow, to assess whether your business is a good candidate for a loan that can be used for equipment upgrades.

If you’re interested in learning more about how commercial business loans can be used for technology and equipment upgrades, contact one of our Small Business Loan Consultants today at 1-844-750-5468.